A recent global sleep study showed over 60% of adults from across 12 counties faced some form of sleeping disorder. Out of which, a shocking 54% believed stress and worry were the main reasons for keeping them up at night. While 8 in 10 responses wanted to seek medical help but couldn’t find the time to do so. Unfortunately, this is something most of us face too. Irregular sleep can spoil the mood, keeps energy levels low, and affects the overall cognitive behavior.
What is the link between stress and sleep?
Ever feel restless when you are stressed and wonder why you can’t fall sleep? Or have you ever woken up from sleep due to stress that makes it difficult to fall asleep again?
When you are stressed, your body goes through a lot of internal reactions. Most common are:
- A heightened state of alertness due to the release of adrenaline and norepinephrine that keeps your body ready to jump into action.
- Shallow breathing caused by lack of oxygen supply to the respiratory system causing dizziness and lack of concentration.
- Increased heart rate as it pumps more blood.
- Higher risk of heartburns, acid reflux and ulcers. This is due to the increased acid production that controls metabolism.
- Increased muscle pain due to tension build-up in the neck and shoulders. This can also cause migraines and severe headaches.
Long-term Effects of Stress on Sleep
It is absolutely normal to be stressed about life events, be it an exam or a job promotion. But chronic stress that lasts for days can have a lasting effect on the body. As the body gets used to the increased hormonal levels of adrenaline and cortisol, you remain in a heightened state of alertness for long durations. This affects the nervous system and the immune system. It affects the body by disrupting your sleep, hampering your memory and decision making. It affects the mental health with onset of insomnia and anxiety.
Tips on Reducing Stress for Wholesome Sleep
Stress cannot be averted overnight. It requires mindful efforts in one’s lifestyle choices and routines, to slowly relax overtime. But one can start by identifying the source of stress and slowly working on addressing the source. In the meantime, here is a quick guide on what you can do to reduce your stress level and enjoy peaceful sleep every night.
- Eating the right food. Consuming unhealthy food can not only cause digestive issues and produce chemicals that have the potential to keep you awake. On the contrary, some natural food properties have a calming function that can relax your mind and ease your body into a slumber. Right nutritious food can also naturally induce sleep and help you stay asleep all night.
- Exercise regularly. While working out also produces adrenaline, it wears the muscles out, making you tired enough to sleep easily. Most importantly, endorphins released while exercising can have a relaxing effect on the mind, thereby calming the stress levels.
Building a sleep routine before bed and after waking up can ensure you fall asleep and wake up at the same time. This can set your internal clock to automatically fall sleep after completing the bedtime routine. This can include listening to calming music before bed, reading a book or even just shutting off electronics half an hour before bed.